MEISTER: Culpeper boys learn life skills in boxing camp | Local News


Jon Russell looked at a huge pile of logs his boys chopped. He recalled what was said to him that day.

“Now I know what it feels like to have a dad show me how to do things like this,” the boy said to him.

Russell got stone-quiet, talking with the Star-Exponent. And, walked away, overcome with emotion.

Recomposed, he said, “We’re growing a whole generation of young men who won’t be broken any more.”

Two men opened their doors to a new adventure, and two dozen boys—desperate for male role models—learned many things… But most of all, that they were loved.

And, for five days, they belonged… not broken.

No one ran through the streets of Culpeper to the soundtrack “Eye of the Tiger.”

Inside, no tuxedo-clad mouthpiece uttered the imperative to brace for a rumble.

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Still, the judges made a unanimous decision: Kelly Street Boxing Club’s first round of youth boxing camps was a winner—by knockout.

The local club, proving its credo, “Giving Young Men a Fighting Chance in Life,” sponsored the event for youngsters ages seven-to-17.

Jon Russell was the cornerman, mixing his punches with a very attentive audience of 23 boys, most of them calling Culpeper home. Others traveled from Madison and Orange. Target: young people historically underserved, searching, longing, craving for purpose.

“I’m having a real fun time!” said 16-year-old camper Jeremy Mimnaugh, seconds after two-punching the heavy bag during Culpeper’s inaugural five-day, pugilistic-themed, teaching and training session. “They’ve taught me to keep trying hard,” he said, anxious to put more dents in that bag.

Russell, who is the CEO of the public relations firm Identity Culpeper, opened Kelly Street Boxing Club this past March at 405 N. Kelly Street.

“Our camp and classes are primarily for boys that would be considered at-risk,” Russell told the Star-Exponent.

Besides the camp, 90-minute classes (50 for boxing, 30 for life-skills) are available for three different age groups on Monday and Tuesdays, in the spring and fall. Curious parents are always able to peek in.

Russell’s heart transparently pours for these kids, living himself, at an early age, with the profound pain of a father who wanted no part of his son. Abandonment ultimately became his motivation, positively transforming rejection into acceptance—by reaching young men through one of the most disciplined of sports: boxing.

Opening the boxing club has been cathartic. For Russell—and every young person who laces up the gloves.

Sanctuary for these boys came camp-week in the form of four hours each day—8-to-noon in a well-equipped boxing facility, sans ring.

Russell said plans to buy a used ring for about $6,000, with future fundraising, such as the pro-rodeo coming to town in September. Campers enjoyed breakfast, performed community service activities (picking up litter, for example), engaged in team-building competitions (tug-of-war, etc.), were introduced to various life-skills, and then…

Chasing chickens wasn’t part of training—though there were clucking chickens in a nearby chicken coop, hoping a “Rocky” training montage wasn’t in their future. But camp organizers did go the distance in teaching various boxing skills.

Harry Brady—no relation to QB 12—was the boxing guru who meticulously broke down scores of fundamentals, tapping into his vast resources and experiences as a veteran Golden Glover, hailing from Patterson, NJ

Gloves were off when this boxing historian barked orders in a staccato, rapid rhythm like a pro working the overhanging speed bag.

“You’re losing your form! Sit down on your punches! Next three up! Come on, Gage … get in there! One-two! One-two! On the bell!” said Brady, all without taking a single breath.

“Set those feet! No silliness! Focus! Focus! Great punches! Great work!” Brady continued. At 20, he was on the cusp of entering the ring professionally, but, instead, Brady gave it all up to become a highly decorated lawman, now since retired.

Brady was the ringleader to a swarming beehive of activity as the boys rotated to various stations: assorted bags, ropes, and ellipticals.

The Russell-Brady tandem—two powerfully, strong, passionate role-models—are committed to reaching the kinds of kids who enrolled at camp. Those thirsting to stand toe-to-toe with the likes of these two men. They both share a common vision and tenaciously plan to mend brokenness, using the multiple benefits of boxing as the springboard for healing.

Exercise. Self-Defense. Discipline. Stress Relief. Health.

You don’t have to watch all those Rocky movies to learn that boxing builds character—strength by knocking out adversity. Life knocks you on the canvas, you beat the standing count, and you…

Young boxers, at Kelly Street Boxing Club, learned exactly that. They also discovered boxing is much more than sport—it is school … with focus and control headlining the syllabus. They are must-pass subjects before advancing to the grad class: adulthood.

“Boxing is just the hook,” Russell said, who is extremely proud of all the life-skills being taught at his camp. Before camp broke, the boys learned the basics of running their own business. On Friday, they sold some of their goods, walking away with cash earned.

Campers also built a bike ramp, learned to mix, and pour concrete—and also chopped a ton of wood.

Undefeated and undisputed champ … Kelly Street Boxing Club’s boxing camp for kids.

A rematch is definitely in its future.

Davy Meister, a retired schoolteacher and coach with a background in print journalism, is a freelance writer who lives in Culpeper. Reach him at


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